We’ve always associated Lent with movie epics: Stephen Boyd wearing heavy eyeliner as Nimrod in The Bible, Boyd’s Messala watching Charlton Heston’s Ben-Hur like a matron on a diet eyes a steak, Ben-Hur’s love interest—an actress who bore the unforgettable name Haya Harareet, Heston as Moses parting the Red Sea, Anne Baxter as the Egyptian princess saying, “Moses, Moses, Moses, you stubborn, adorable fool!”
Every year my parents would take me to the cinema on Good Friday to watch a scratchy print of a biblical tale; the story in my family is that during the crucifixion scene in Cecil B. DeMille’s King of Kings, my seven-year-old self declared, “He has no armpit hair.” We feel bad for the younger generation whose Lenten fare consists of such punitive gristle as The Passion of the Christ.
Sean Bean as Boromir I mean Eddard Stark in Game Of Thrones.
This year we sat down and digested two epics: the first episode of HBO’s Game Of Thrones, and four episodes of The Borgias. The first is a fantasy adventure series based on the saga by George R.R. Martin, the second a “historical” drama based on the story of the notorious Borgia family. Interestingly enough, Game is being marketed as “The Sopranos with swords”, after HBO’s famous franchise, and The Borgias (Tagline: “The Original Crime Family”) openly courts comparison to The Godfather, down to the cross-cutting between an assassination attempt and a church ceremony.
Jeremy Irons as Rodrigo Borgia a.k.a. Pope Alexander VI and Francois Arnaud as Cesare Borgia.
That’s not all they have in common. The two shows are about families caught in a bloody struggle for power. Each show features the most sumptuous production design and costumes. Both have major characters who are blindingly blonde virgins. Both have major subplots involving incest, and both take advantage of the freedom of cable with scenes of graphic sex and violence.